Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Mounds View Police Department Makes Community Outreach a Priority

This is the second in a series of City Spot blog posts dedicated to stories of cities that are solving problems by putting ideas into action. You can read more Ideas in Action in Minnesota Cities magazine.

The City of Mounds View is home to a diverse population whose roots include the east and west
coasts of Africa, the Pacific Rim, and Eastern Europe. With an array of cultures and lifestyles converging, the city — its Police Department in particular — has been intentional in engaging its people.
Police have found the portable climbing wall to
be a great tool to connect with young people

When Police Chief Nate Harder began serving Mounds View four years ago, he brought visions of community outreach with him. Emphasizing relationships and common ground, Harder, the Police Department, and the city have been working extensively to create a welcoming atmosphere for all residents through programs and events.

The Police Department’s long list of community outreach efforts offer opportunities for all residents. “Equity is a big deal in this community,” says Harder. “We want to target every group we have in the City of Mounds View because we want to build relationships.”

Using resources
Establishing positive police and community relations took a considerable amount of creativity and dedication. The city’s financial situation was tight with budget increases limited to 2% per year, plus inflation. The Police Department developed many partnerships and even started a nonprofit organization run by interested residents to generate resources for community outreach efforts.

The nonprofit organization, The Mounds View Police Foundation, plays an important role in supporting the Police Department’s efforts. Volunteers give time and talent and help secure grant funding. The Police Department also partners with several community groups, organizations, and businesses for many of their numerous engagement efforts.

Variety of programming
The Mounds View Police Department has programs and events for every type of resident. To engage youth, the Police Department holds Kids N Cops Hockey tournaments, a bike rodeo with a local preschool, and hunter safety courses to name a few.

For residents of culturally diverse backgrounds, the Police Department participates in Ghanafest which celebrates residents from across the Twin Cities with Ghana heritage. They also host New Americans Academy to give residents new to the U.S. and the community information on state and federal laws and how to interact with law enforcement. Harder says the goal of the New Americans Academy is “to let [new residents] know who we are and what we can do for them.”

Ghanafest celebrates residents with Ghana heritage.
The Police Department also has many programs designed to bring the entire community together. These include Coffee With a Cop, Cones With a Cop, National Night Out, Bowling With a Cop, CPR training, and more.

Of the things the Police Department has tried, Harder highlights the Shop With a Cop event, Father/Daughter Dance, and the portable climbing wall because of the connection they establish with youth.

“It creates a positive contact,” he says. “They now feel comfortable coming up and talking to us.”

Shop With a Cop is an annual event where officers take local, at-risk children shopping to purchase holiday gifts for their families. Each child receives $100 for gifts, then spends the day at a holiday party with the officers wrapping gifts, listening to holiday music, and sipping hot chocolate.

Last Valentine’s Day was the first Father/Daughter Dance hosted by the Police Department. The goal was to give young girls a “first date” experience with fathers, grandfathers, uncles, or other special people in their lives. The event featured a dinner, music, dancing, and other activities for girls and their dates.

The Police Department’s mobile climbing wall has also been a very effective tool for reaching young people. Harder recalls a time when the Police Department brought the climbing wall to an event with many children from Cambodia in attendance.

At first, the children were so scared of the officers they were upset and crying, but they soon warmed up when given the chance to play, he says. Within 10 minutes, the children were smiling and laughing as they scaled the wall.

And the department recently added another fun item—a portable zip line! Much like the climbing wall, Harder says he expects the zip line to help them make more community connections.

Learning process
In connecting with a diverse community, Harder says he and his officers learned to navigate cultural differences brought to light through some programs and events.

With Ghanafest and New Americans Academy, Harder says he learned the concept of time is different across cultures. For example, one program was scheduled for 11 a.m. but attendees began to arrive at about 1 p.m.

At first, he thought no one was interested in coming to these cultural programs, but when he noticed people were coming later than expected, he began to anticipate a difference in timing.

Valuable takeaways
Police officers play floor hockey with community kids.

City Administrator Nyle Zikmund says, in addition to official programming, some efforts are meant to engage the community in a casual way without a formal structure.

“Some of these things are very subtle; they’re out there just having fun,” Zikmund says. The goal of outreach efforts is the same, however: to develop relationships between police and community and “break those barriers down,” he says.

Harder says the impact of the relationships he and his officers create goes far beyond their work. “This is good for us as human beings,” says Harder. “We see people on their worst days and this gives us a chance to be with them on their best days.”

Other cities should give it a try
Harder encourages other cities interested in increasing their outreach efforts to go for it. “Don’t be afraid to try something,” he says. Even if it doesn’t turn out the first time, “there’s always a better way to do something.”

The Mounds View Police Department managed to create these opportunities with limited resources, thanks to local partners, volunteers, and a receptive community. Other cities can generate engagement in their communities too, regardless of resources.

“You don’t need a budget,” Harder says. “You just need passion.”

Written by former LMC Intern McKayla Collins.


Friday, September 13, 2019

Now Available: Sep-Oct Issue of Minnesota Cities Magazine

The winners of the LMC 2019 C.C. Ludwig and James F. Miller Leadership awards are St. Anthony Village Mayor Jerry Faust and St. Michael City Administrator Steve Bot. Find out what makes these leaders special in the latest Minnesota Cities magazine cover story.

The September-October issue of the magazine hit the streets last week. In addition to profiles of the LMC award winners, you’ll also find important information on railroad hazmat training and financial management planning.

More highlights:
  • Afton’s Downtown Village Improvement Project. Read Ideas in Action to find out how Afton got flooding under control and made many other upgrades to its historic downtown. The project was a 2019 City of Excellence Award winner.
  • Website photos and copyright laws. In Letter of the Law, you’ll learn how to stay on the right side of the law when it comes to using photos on your website.
  • Main street revitalization efforts in Bird Island. This city of just over 1,000 residents recently joined the Main Street Minnesota program to help them pump up their downtown businesses and encourage residents to shop local. Read all about it in Focus on Small Cities.
Bonus: This issue also includes the League’s 2018-2019 Annual Report. Read highlights of the last year, see a financial overview, and get a glimpse into our plans for the future!

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Do the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Graders You Know Have the Write Stuff?

The League of Minnesota Cities’ annual Mayor for a Day Essay Contest is now open! Students who will be in the fourth, fifth, and sixth grades during the 2019-2020 school year can enter by answering this question:
Cities provide a variety of services and programs that make our lives better, including parks & rec, street maintenance, water and sewer, libraries, police, fire, and more! If you were mayor for a day, what would you do to make one of the services that your city provides even better?

Students (ahem—and parents and teachers!) can download the essay form here. Handwritten responses must be mailed to us by Oct. 14, 2019.

The sky’s the limit for ideas!

Among last year’s winning essays, one student wanted to improve his city’s police department by encouraging officers to talk with kids more often. Another student focused on parks and rec, suggesting that her city add a community center and some after-school programs. The final winning essayist focused on improving her city’s streets and sidewalks, and hosting some events where residents could meet each other.

Three winners will be chosen—each winner will receive $100 and have their essay published in Minnesota Cities magazine.

So please share this with the kids you know … we can’t wait to read what they’d do to improve their cities!

Monday, August 12, 2019

My City Superpower Returns! (To the 2019 Minnesota State Fair)

Vision. Heart. Interpretation. Action.

These are just a few of the "superpowers" that drive the work that happens in cities every day.

But which one is yours?

Stop by the League's booth in the Education Building at the State Fair Aug. 22-Sept. 2 to take the "Discover Your City Superpower!" Quiz and find out. We'll be there to help fairgoers have fun and to see which city careers could help them do good in their own communitiesno cape required!

Last year, over 5,000 people stopped by the booth, and we're excited to meet 5,000 more.

To help share our message on behalf of cities, also highlights over a dozen city officials sharing what they love about their work. If you can't make it to the fairgrounds, is the next best thing, and will be the quiz headquarters once the fair disappears into the night.

The 2019 Minnesota State Fair is Aug. 22-Sept. 2. We'll see you in the Education Building!

Friday, July 19, 2019

New Issue of Minnesota Cities Magazine Highlights Fellowship Program

Do you know where your next great up-and-comers are? A new program of Minnetonka, Delano, and
the League of Minnesota Cities is working to identify and groom them—and you can read all about it in the July-August issue of Minnesota Cities magazine.

The Minnesota Cities Fellowship Program—in which graduate students spend two years as interns rotating among the League and two cities—seeks to make sure that qualified young workers are ready to step into city government roles as Baby Boomers continue retiring. It offers a well-rounded experience to prepare the fellows for their first full-time jobs. Learn more about it in our cover story!

When you check out the July-August issue, you’ll also read about:
• A free online police training program that meets new state requirements. It's called True North Constitutional Policing.
• How to use GIS tools to engage the public, in an article from Bolton & Menk, a member of the League’s Business Leadership Council.
• Two cities that made the most of their state trunk highway projects to enhance safety, economic development, and aesthetics, in Focus on Small Cities.
• And much more!

Friday, July 5, 2019

Sunset On #MnCities at the Lake 2019 Annual Conference

On June 26, nearly 600 city officials gathered "at the lake" for the 2019 Annual Conference in Duluth. For three days, city officials discovered ideas during more than 20 educational sessions, created connections with other city officials as well as more than 100 vendors and League staff, and heard from inspiring speakers.

Look back at this year's conference, and share some of your own highlights in the comments below!

Incoming president Mike Mornson, LMC Board of Directors Member D. Love,
and past president Heidi Omerza helped facilitate the first-time attendee
meetup on Wednesday.
Tawanna Black, founder of the Center for Economic Inclusion, presents on Fueling the Path to
Economic Inclusion and Shared Prosperity as part of the Intercultural Development &
Communication Pre-Conference Workshop.
The World Beat Drummers from Myers-Wilkins Elementary School in
Duluth called attendees to the ballroom for the opening ceremony.
Wednesday's keynote speaker Kim Lear offered insight into how different generations
can understand each other better and communicate more effectively in the
workplace and beyond.
The exhibit hall on Wednesday night gave city officials
a chance to meet with vendors and mingle.

Just a little lake-themed fun! The lounge area provided a "campfire" and music
from Duluth-based band Wood Blind.
Thursday started off with an energetic presentation from keynote speaker Dave Meslin
about rethinking community engagement.
St. Peter City Administrator Todd Prafke helps facilitate an educational session.

Executive Director David Unmacht shakes the hand of 2018-2019 LMC Board
President Heidi Omerza, city councilmember in Ely.
Board elections were held during the annual business meeting on Thursday
following the nominating committee interviews. Standing is 2nd VP Rita Albrecht,
mayor of Bemidji.

Rena Sarigianopoulos hosted Thursday night's awards dinner, recognizing
City of Excellence Award winners, Sustainable City Award winners, the C.C. Ludwig
Award winner, and the James F. Miller Leadership Award winner.
Longtime Member Services Director Kevin Frazell was recognized at Thursday's
Awards Dinner. Frazell will be retiring in August.
Meeting with other city officials is part of the
excitement of any League event!
Gov. Tim Walz (center) meets with one of Friday's panel guests Dave Durenberger
and panel moderator Lori Sturdevant.

Photos by LMC staffer Eric Haugen

Monday, June 24, 2019

Packin' for the Lake: A Superior Team!

While the usual packing list for a visit to the lake might include some beach towels, tunes, and a fishing pole or two, we're just as excited to pack up the necessities for this year's Annual Conference in Duluth, June 26-28!

It takes a whole team of League staffers to arrange everything just so, and it's a sure sign that the biggest event of the year is right around the bend.

If you're packing and prepping too, be sure to bookmark on your mobile device. That's where to go to find all your provisions: schedule, session descriptions, maps, and more.

See you at the lake!